Monday, February 04, 2008

'Tis Nobler to Suffer... Or at Least Funnier

(Warning: Slings & Arrows is intended for mature audiences, and depicts people acting immaturely, including potty mouthery and conjugal content.)

For those with cable: The Sundance Channel has started airing SLINGS & ARROWS again; if you act fast, you can watch the three season Canadian show from the beginning – “Oliver’s Dream.”

I have only seen the last two seasons until now, and eager to catch up from the beginning.

In part because it hearkens back to my life in the theatre: the show is about a Canadian Shakespeare company, trying to make art and make the rent at the same time.

The series quite accurately captures the life of the non-profit theatre, from the artistic temperament (in the first ep, the diva apologies to the cast for interrupting notes to make a demand about her character, an apology undercut with an acerbic, “I’m sorry… that I care”), to the managerial temperament of those in charge of paying the bills (again from the first ep, I chuckled in recognition when the managing director gleefully finds someone who agrees that show business “is a business after all”).

But what truly elevates this series is its ability to capture the ephemeral; it is the closest I’ve seen on any sized screen at capturing the unrepeatable magic of live performance.

Just witness the magic of Geoffrey’s opening speech in episode one, as he waves a toilet plunger around, while making the argument that a theatre doesn’t need phones (and the magic of theatre takes over… almost).

The show is designed for only three seasons – allowing the creators to have a specific beginning, middle and end; and giving the series a very complete arc/journey for the protagonist, Geoffrey (as well as all of the main characters).

Each season centers around one major play being presented by the company – which also represents each leg in Geoffrey’s journey as a human being.

Season one is about HAMLET, the story of a young man trying to find his place in the world that threatens to tear him apart.

Season two is MACBETH, a man in the middle of life torn between the expectations of his love and his own blinding ambition.

Season three is KING LEAR, a king having achieved success, going through madness to try and find what in life has real value.

Note what all three characters have in common: they all deal with insanity. Which plays rather heavily in SLINGS & ARROWS plot as well.

Polonius says of Hamlet: “Thou this be madness, yet there be method in it;” the same is true of the design of the television show.

But I think more appropriate than the bard is Seneca’s take: “There is no great talent without an element of madness.”

And there is plenty of madness in SLINGS & ARROWS.

Just my thoughts,



Dan Buck (SLP) said...

I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. And I probably could've held on for longer if my wife hadn't surrendered after four or five episodes.

While I appreciated it's ability to capture the ethereal delight that comes in theatre, the characters were bleakly shallow but for their quest of that ever-elusive "moment".

I found myself depressed thinking, "Even if they momentarily ride the wave of 'real art' that they all seemed to long for, they would still be jerks."

Oliver was a good character, but we just finished Six Feet Under and much preferred that "undead" character. :)

Gaffney said...

I tend to have very little patience for self-absorbed characters. Wonder why I got past that for these folk...

I suppose I may have had an advantage starting late in the run, when they were a bit more on their journeys. And I was drawn to Richard, who was seeking to keep the whole business open, more than just the moment.

Another thing the show does get right (although I don't blame anyone for not wanting to sit through 3 seasons for this) is how unfulfilling and fleeting getting that moment is -- that is when that moment is all you have.

Geoffrey does have an epiphany in the final episode, but that is three seasons from now...